The team of “Foods Tayo” recently visited two shops owned by a unique tandem of restaurateurs. They’re a real-life love team, to put it simply, and despite being small fry in the widening sea of food establishments, they have quite a good following, with unique dishes to back them up.
Maria’s Ilocos Empanada was born at the garage of its owner Hazel Santos. It was a simple business experiment that eventually found its way around by word of mouth and recommendations from empanada lovers that stumble upon the area. Their empanada is also said to be among the most well-known among food critics in Metro Manila.
Their specialty, the Maria’s (premium empanada) is crispy deep-fried with ground longganisa, sprouts, cabbage, cheese, chili pepper bits and egg on the inside. The pastry is cooked and served fresh on the spot, and one could even smell the empanada as it gets cooked.
The result is a stuffed empanada with a crunchy, delectable outer shell, and steamy-hot fillings on the inside. The pastry is bursting with a salty-meaty taste, balanced by the egg and spices inside. Speaking of spices, I daresay this empanada is best eaten with ketchup and spicy Ilocos vinegar, which brings out this dish’s full flavor.
Having traveled to Vigan a few times during my stint as a northbound newspaper reporter, I remember eating smaller versions of streetside empanada that are as stuffed and as filling as the one I’ve tried here. To say that this is an example of authentic Ilocos empanada is an understatement, never mind that patrons say this is the closest to home ever seen so far.
Just so you know, Maria’s Ilocos Empanada serves rice meals with Ilocos longganisa, bagnet, and homemade tapa. They also sell uncooked longganisa, bagnet, chichacorn, and sukang Iloko. How’s that to complete the experience!
Having to go to Fairview just to visit Maria’s Ilocos Empanada is a tedious task, something that only the most hardcore of foodies can endure. The trip is worth it, though. Still, here’s hoping that Maria’s Ilocos Empanada would branch out to more places in the metropolis.
Maria’s Ilocos Empanada
#41 Regalado St. Fairview Quezon City
10am-8pm, Monday to Sunday.
Tel. No. 806-9357
Our next stop was Ean’s Grilled Burgers, owned by Ean James Cuenco, Hazel’s boyfriend and the shop’s “chief burger officer”. Seeking out the place was a mean task, since it was hidden in plain sight just near C3 in Quezon City. Just as in the case of Maria’s Ilocos Empanada, the search and the trip was worth braving the traffic.
At first glance, Ean’s Grilled Burgers is just a neighborhood burger stand, but the fun part begins when you start ordering. For starters, they serve freshly-grilled quarter pounders. Yup, quarter pounders, the same premium-sized burgers sold in fastfood chains with premium-sized prices. Here, you get a pure beef patty with tomatoes, onions, ketchup, mustard, and cream cheese for as low as P50.
Then there’s the half-pound burger, more beef for as low as P100. For a minimal amount, you can add American or mozzarella cheese on your burger to kick that burger level up a notch.
The burger patty itself speaks volumes about why Ean’s Grilled Burgers is sought after. We’re talking about a pure, juicy patty bursting with beefy flavor in every bite. One quarter pounder is surely enough to fill and satisfy many a hungry belly.
Here’s an interesting tidbit: the burger stand is located near a chapel where one could pray to the statue of the Jesus Nazareno and other saints. One can say visiting the place to grab a burger makes for a spiritual experience. Which reminds me, when we watched the burgers being grilled, I could swear they were playing Handel’s “Hallelujah” in the background, but I digress.
Ean’s Grilled Burgers
55 Cabatuan St. corner C3, Quezon City
2:00pm – 11:00pm
Tel. No. 0929-4507636
It’s interesting to note that Ean and Hazel help and support each other in promoting and maintaining each other’s businesses. I remember hearing that their love story started when they were still competitors at Mercato Centrale (or was it Banchetto?). Dozens of business hours and interactions later, they eventually became a couple, but I leave that story for others to talk about, since I suck at love stories, but I digress.
Visiting Maria’s Ilocos Empanada and Ean’s Grilled Burger shows that there are lots of hidden foodie treasures around Metro Manila that have yet to be discovered. As a food blogger, may I boldly say that it will take a while, but be it a humble stall or a grand restaurant, there will always be something that will find favor to the masses of food lovers and those who seek delicious, budget-friendly dishes.
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